Bad News for Livni's Protege

The last thing Kadima needed on the eve of its primary election is a crisis among its staff of Russian-speakers. And it was no coincidence that MK Marina Solodkin chose the moment to accuse the person in charge of that constituency, Nada Chozoy, of compiling lists of recommended candidates for the Russian immigrant community. Solodkin's name, incidentally, was not on the list.

"These lists are either the result of heavy pressure from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, or the result of heavy pressure bought with money," Solodkin told Haaretz.

Solodkin has reason to feel disenfranchised. She nabbed sixth place in Kadima's previous primary, but Olmert did not appoint her to a ministerial post. Now, she enjoys the support of foreign minister and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who is backing Solodkin's bid for the 10th spot on the slate, the highest of Kadima's four reserved slots for Russian immigrants.

After three years in which Solodkin existed within Kadima as an independent operative, as Livni's protege, she has become the main axis of Kadima's relationship with Russian-speakers.

As Solodkin's current predicament demonstrates, that relationship has become strained. Three years after Ariel Sharon formed Kadima with the declared goal of transforming it into Israel's largest immigrant party, Kadima is now forced to struggle for the votes of Russian-speakers.

Sharon, according to polls, brought in enough Russian immigrants to buy Kadima 12 seats in the Knesset. More than half of them left under Olmert. The Second Lebanon War had special consequences for Kadima's influence among Russian immigrants. Hezbollah's missiles hit Karmiel, Nahariya, Haifa and Acre repeatedly - all cities with particularly large Russian-speaking communities.

Furthermore, Kadima failed to deliver on any of its promises to its Russian-speakers. It has not realized recognition for common law marriage and has made only partial progress in easing the religious conversion process.

Kadima is now expected to receive merely two seats' worth of votes from the Russian-speaking community, which is not enough for a ruling party.